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University of Exeter Business School

Innovation for Urgent Global Challenges

Module titleInnovation for Urgent Global Challenges
Module codeBEM3067
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Cliff Li (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

Now more than ever, it is clear that the world is facing catastrophic shocks and urgent grand challenges that cross social, economic and environmental spheres.  Key grand global challenges include climate change, biodiversity loss, pandemics like COVID-19, antibiotic resistance, social injustice, economic inequities, populism, and emerging frontier risks from AI, space exploration, climate tipping points, among others. Businesses and innovators need to work in increasingly collaborative ways which move beyond traditional boundaries and research silos. This requires innovation in our management paradigms in order to move to systemic solutions to intractable problems and escalating global risks.

In such a world, there are tremendous opportunities for managers to engage and make fundamental contributions to the challenges that lie ahead. 

This module explores these issues and also leverages external experts and current events including the upcoming UNFCCC’s conference on cli-mate change (COP26) hosted by the UK government in Glasgow this November, 2021.

Module aims - intentions of the module

  • To introduce students, through research led teaching, to cutting-edge management paradigms emerging in response to today’s pressing grand global challenges.
  • To develop a critical orientation towards the subject matter and an understanding of how these innovation paradigms can be operationalised in practice.
  • To enhance student employability through engaging students in the latest management approaches and their implications for business and organisational practice.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. explain key innovation management paradigms and theories to address grand challenges and critically discuss how they compare and contrast;
  • 2. evaluate theory-practice links between innovation management paradigms and business operations.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. critically evaluate concepts, theories and techniques.

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. work independently and demonstrate self-motivated inquiry within the subject area;
  • 5. work effectively in a group;
  • 6. present arguments related to the module content to an audience.

Syllabus plan

Whilst the precise content may vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover all or some of the following topics:

  • What new and emerging innovation management paradigms are emerging in response to today’s grand global challenges?
  • Beyond the techno-fix
  • Grand global challenges
  • Social innovation
  • Reverse innovation
  • Risk management
  • Interdisciplinary innovation
  • Creativity in innovation
  • Locating value in innovation

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities 11Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities 10Workshops
Guided Independent Study60Pre and post session reading
Guided Independent Study69Assessment preparation

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Management protocol (group)5 minute presentation in workshop1-6Verbal

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Management protocol (group)2515 minute oral presentation and accompanying slides1-6Oral feedback from the class and written feedback from the module lead
Individual essay assignment752,500 words1-4, 6Written feedback

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Management protocol (group)Individual innovation report (2,000 words) (25%)1-6Referral/Deferral period
Individual essay assignmentIndividual essay assignment (2,500 words) (75%)1-4, 6Referral/Deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

This module will require engaging with a range of readings from a variety of sources. Readings to accompany each lecture will be posted online. Examples include:

Arctic Basecamp (2021). Online Event: Part 1: A Plan for the Planet: The Arctic & Beyond. Part 2: Make Earth Cool Again.

Beheshti, N. (2020). End business as usual — Leaders must boldly and fearlessly respond to Black Lives Matter.  Forbes, June 18, 2020.

Fridays for Future.

George, G., Howard-Grenville, H., Hoshi, A., Tihanyi, L. (2016) Understanding and tackling societal grand challenges through management research. Academy of Management Journal, 59,

Rockstrom, J., & Whiteman, G. (2021). Shell’s net zero plan will be judged on science, not spin. Climate Home News.

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Who’s in the Race to Zero?

Williams, A., Whiteman, G., & Parker, J. (2020).  Backstage interorganizational collaboration: Corporate endorsement of the sustainable development goals.  Academy of Management Discoveries, 5.

Wilson, R., (2020). Video series: Idiot’s Guide to Climate Change.  Available on Youtube:

World Business Council for Sustainable Development (2021): Vision 2050: Time to Transform.

World Business Council for Sustainable Development (2021). COVID-19 Response Program: Vital Supply Chains Issue Brief.

World Economic Forum (2021). The Global Risks Report 2021.

Whiteman, Gail (2021). Making sense of frontier risks and identifying early warning signs. WEF Agenda.

Harris, M., Weisberger, E., Silver, D., Dadwal, V., & Macinko, J. (2016). That's not how the learning works - the paradox of Reverse Innovation: a qualitative study. Global Health, 12(36), 1-8. https://doi:10.1186/s12992-016-0175-7

Immelt, J. R., Govindarajan, V., & Trimble, C. (2009). How GE is disrupting itself. Harvard Business Review, 87(10), 56-65

Key words search

Innovation, Grand Challenges

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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